"Harvey's Got Talent" extravaganza highlights young performers for back-to-school season
The newly formed Citizens United for Harvey's Youth, a local community group, held their inaugural talent show to highlight young people and connect them to better opportunities.
Rainfall drew the back-to-school talent show indoors. But, that didn’t stop roars of applause and praise Saturday, August 20, at Universal Baptist Church during the “Harvey’s Got Talent” event.
It was the first major event from Citizens United for Harvey’s Youth, a community group composed of former teachers, parents, and entrepreneurs working to uplift Harvey’s young people.
The event featured performances of live art, dance, singing from tweens and tots, and Hip-Hop fitness. UMB staff also recorded the event and streamed it on the church YouTube channel.
There were free haircuts, health screenings, and a school supplies giveaway. Special guest Michael Manson, a Harvey native and world-renowned bassist, treated residents to a soulful rendition of Bill Withers’ “A Lovely Day.”
The spotlight won’t end at the church on Alderman Taylor Way. Host and Chicago native De’Borah Garner, a season 3 contestant on “The Voice,” asked performers what was their ideal performance venue.
“All they have to do is speak where they want to be and aspire to be,” and the community will work to get them there, Garner said, adding that the moment was about showing young people the power of affirmations and manifestations.
“I’m dedicated to all of the youth around the world. I travel far, but it doesn’t count if you can’t do it at home,” Garner said, who offered to host for free. “How can we spend money when we’re trying to give?”
Vendors, including those like the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Association, which works to create social equity for communities of color, set up shop downstairs.
CUFHY worked to get several vendors that Millennials could find interest in. “There’s a disconnect between generations,” CUFHY co-founder Latrice Rattler said.
CUFHY founder Derek Atchison, a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher, said the disconnect was even greater. “You can go to school and get straight A’s from kindergarten to high school, but there’s no guarantee that you're going to be successful,” Atchison said.
When planning, which took three months, CUFHY faced a few challenges like community mistrust or lack of cooperation from public bodies.
The group sought help from park district and school officials, but many calls and emails went unanswered.
“It was what we wanted, but it was a little bittersweet. There were so many people we expected to pop in but didn’t,” said CUFHY co-founder Cassandra Dawkins-Jackson.
Alderwoman Telanee Smith (3rd) and Harvey Treasurer Aisha Pickett were in attendance.
The event was packed, but Rattler made a dubious observation. “We have bookbags left over. We shouldn’t have bookbags leftover,” Rattler said.
CUFHY got help where they could.
Initially, there were eight people involved, eventually dwindling to three. Everything was funded via sponsorship and out-of-pocket. Atchison’s cousin, a retired nurse, did blood pressure readings.
When Dawkins-Jackson told her friend Garner about the event and CUFHY’s struggle to secure a venue, Garner suggested UBC, where her father is the senior bishop.
Church leadership let CUFHY organizers stay late nights working to prepare. Senior Bishop Troy Garner, Sr. even cooked the food himself.
They’re grateful, Dawkins-Jackson said. The group handed out certificates of appreciation to church members, vendors, and community figures for their donations and support.
CUFHY’s mission statement takes from a Bible verse about affirming youth: “Train up a child in the way he should go,” the verse begins, “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
That was Dawkins-Jackson’s idea, who has a “passion for the next generation because of how I was handled growing up.” She added, “It’s difficult to watch the decline and decay in the city,” Dawkins-Jackson reflected on fond childhood memories spent at the now closed YMCA. “It was somewhere for us to be. These kids don’t have nowhere to go.”
CUFHY plans to bring a two-day science, technology, engineering, arts, and math program to Harvey. Organizers collected contact information for future giveaways and job training opportunities.
The group needs to work on building a financial base to expand, Dawkins-Jackson said, and get greater buy-in from residents.
Networking will be key, and they’ll need to begin planning sooner, Atchison said.
Garner also plans to ramp up her own youth programming in Harvey and surrounding areas, as well as hosting and musical openings, especially as the holiday season nears.
Every Saturday at 4pm, youth can rehearse with the UMB youth choir. They perform Sundays during live service. No auditions or prior musical experience are required. You can reach Garner at her email address, AskDeBoServices@gmail.com .
The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, recently gripped the nation. You’ll be seeing more of CUFHY around schools as class resumes.
“We’re going to go around to different schools and pray for them to make sure that that school is blessed and covered,” Rattler said.
Even down to the pen and paper.
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